Event Preview: Drivers gearing up for Billy Melton Memorial

SPRING, Texas (June 27, 2024) — He was one of the top-ranked drivers in the region, and this weekend they’ll pay tribute to the man and his legacy. Donnie Powers and his staff are set to host the Billy Melton Memorial at Ark-La-Tex Speedway in Vivian, Louisiana. 

The mighty USRA Modifieds steal the spotlight this week, as they’ll compete for $3,087 to win in Saturday night’s A Main. It all kicks off tonight (Thursday) with an open practice session, while Friday night will see two sets of Heats run with passing points awarded. 

Saturday night’s 30-lap Modified A Main will also pay $25 to the leader of each lap. That makes a potential total haul of $3,837 if a driver can dominate the show. That’s good money by any standard. 

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Joining the Modifieds on Friday evening will be the Limited Modified and Factory Stock teams. Both classes will run Heats and features, as will the entry-level Sportster division. On Saturday night, the USRA Tuners and Pro Mods will be part of the program. 

Several of the top Modified teams in the region are gearing up for a shot at the money this weekend. Among those planning to compete are Sean, Kenny and Steven Gaddis; Chris and Dustin Henigan, Ralo Pilkington, Tim Eaves Jr., Jason Ingalls, Jake Huckaby, Taylor Ratliff and Keaton Atkinson.  

Sean Gaddis has earned one win and six top-fives in 12 starts thus far in 2024. 

“It’s been going really well this year,” he said via cell phone on Wednesday evening. “We started off on a strong note in the USMTS races. We normally have plenty of speed, but never quite have the luck to go with it. This year, the luck go our way, which really helps.

“So we’ve just built off of that, trying to carry the momentum forward. We picked up a win with the American Racer Modified Series (ARMS), it was my first win with them which felt pretty good. The car felt fast the last time out two weeks ago, so we’re confident we can have a solid run this weekend.”

Dustin Henigan, 17, of Marshall, won a Mod feature at RPM on May 11 and is enjoying a solid year. 

“It’s been a pretty strong season so far,” he said. “I have a lot of second-place finishes behind my Dad. I wish some of those races had been wins, but running second to my Dad is OK by me. If I can’t win it, I want him to be the one who does. 

“I’m feeling pretty good about my chances this weekend. This CDR car I drive has been good all year, and Ark-La-Tex is my favorite track. I’m full-time in the Modified now, but I did run a Limited the past two weekends in big shows. I’m excited to get back into my Mod for the Billy Melton Memorial.” 

Tim Eaves Jr., of Mooringsport, Louisiana, has earned three top-five finishes this year in 13 starts. He’s third in points at Ark-La-Tex and says he’s working the kinks out of a new-to-him race car. 

“It’s going decent, but we’ve been struggling with the new class,” he said on Wednesday evening. “We ran a Crate Late Model all of last year, and ran pretty decent with that. But this year, we had a baby, so we’re trying to stay a little bit closer to home. 

“The Modified class looked like a pretty good place for me, and I’m really really enjoying it so far. I always try to run the premier division, and these cars fit the bill. They’re fast and a blast to drive. 

“This weekend will be a tough one to win. Modified racing around the Ark-La-Tex region is loaded with some heavy hitters. You have to race people like Chris Henigan, and his son, Dustin, they’re really fast and they know the tracks around here very well. But we’re going to give it our best shot.” 

Ark-La-Tex Speedway, presented by Genuine RV and Powersports, has been a mainstay of oval racing for decades. Known as the ‘Land of Three-Wide,” its racing surface has produced legendary finishes contested by the region’s top drivers. The Billy Melton Memorial will continue that tradition.  

Hot Laps will get under way at 7 p.m. on Friday evening, with racing to follow at 8 p.m. On Saturday, Hot Laps are set to begin at 7 p.m., with B Mains and feature on tap at 8 p.m. along with a full program of support classes. It promises to be two nights of exciting short track action as summer hits full swing. 

If you can’t make it out to Ark-La-Tex Speedway this weekend, you can see it all with a Membership at RaceON.com. With over 450 events on our Live streaming schedule this year, it’s home to some of the best short track racing entertainment available anywhere online. 

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By Phil Whipple, RaceON.com Staff Writer